31 Jul Bradford Elite, Vikings Super Bowl?
Sam Bradford broke the record for single-season completion percentage in 2016. While the short-passing attack benefited Bradford in this pursuit, pushing the football down the field is his true prowess.
The Vikings offense was derailed by a litany of injuries in 2016. To make matters worse, a mid-season coaching change implemented a new scheme for Bradford. Arriving via trade just one week prior to the season opener, Bradford would learn his third offense in an eight-week span.
Learning new terminology, developing rapport with receivers can take years to master. Perfecting rhythm and timing can take even longer. These obstacles were a mere speed-bump as Bradford continued to display his elite trait despite all the turmoil:
And this envelops more than a quick-strike offense, it includes precision too all levels of the field. Whether it was attacking the seam against a linebacker in trail technique, dropping a dime into the corner against cover-2 or throwing a strike to the back shoulder up the boundary, Bradford was pinpoint.
The talent that made Bradford the bell-of-the-NFL-draft-ball in 2010 was on display early in a primetime showdown with divisional rival Green Bay.
In this clip, Bradford is well protected and throwing to his left (traditionally the more difficult directional throw for a right handed QB.) With help over the top and the corner lurking underneath, this ball had to be perfect to defeat cover-2 – and it was.
Going to the right side this time, Bradford identifies man coverage as he pulls Stefon Diggs in motion to a nasty split (a tight alignment just off the offensive tackle.) Diggs gets on top of the defender, and Bradford recognizes it. He waits until the last moment to pull the trigger, and absorbs a crushing blow for the defender. The location is perfect, and the play results in six for Minnesota.
Dialing up the deep ball to Diggs again, this time Bradford recognizes the route has been won early, and throws it out in front of his receiver. Without exceptional acceleration, Diggs needed this ball to fall in the bread basket – and it did.
Against the Jaguars in December, Bradford recognizes press-man-coverage and uses touch and trajectory to give his receiver the opportunity to run under the ball for an easy big play.
This route gives Bradford two options: 1.) Throw it over the top if Adam Thielen wins off the line, or 2.) Throw it back-shoulder if Thielen’s engaged. Bradford holds the single high safety by keeping his eyes to the left side of the formation. He whips his head around to see he needs to throw the ball, with velocity, at the front pylon. The ball is perfectly placed and it’s another six for the Vikings.
Here is where the superstar talent flashes. This throw requires the QB to get the football over the underneath defender. He also needs to throw it with enough velocity to keep the ball in-bounds. Bradford alters his arm angle to put more drive and spin on the ball. To put the cherry on top, he throws it with anticipation, tucking the ball into the perfect location.
Dealing with poor protection and a lack of separation down-field the entire second half of the season, Bradford still managed to make plays. Here, he eludes the rush, buys some time and finds Adam Thielen on a broken route. The defender is in position to make a play, but there is no defense for a perfect throw.
Showing off the arm-strength again, Bradford rips this ball 30 yards across both hash marks. The ball flies directly over the outstretched arms of the defender for a big gainer.
An unfair picture is often painted of quarterbacks that excel in the short passing game. Bradford was not only exceptional on pre-determined reads predicted by pre-snap coverage, but he was dynamic moving defenses post-snap with his eyes and subtle pocket movement.
Whether it was a simple stick concept, smash concept or man-free beater, Bradford rarely failed in the accuracy department. Ranking fourth in the NFL on ThirdAnd10’s mistake percentage and fifth in overall grade displays Bradford’s ability to play smart, yet explosive football.
Minnesota raced to a 5-0 start in 2016. Reinforcements in 2017 point to even bigger things for Bradford and the Vikings. The addition of Dalvin Cook to the shot-gun style offense will spread defenses horizontally with zone-read as well as outside-zone concepts. A heathier offensive line and the opportunity to go through an off-season program with this team only expands the Vikings expectations.
The 5-0 start is more indicative of the talent on this football team than the 3-8 finish. With that talent, and an elite quarterback under center, the Vikings should be eyeing a prize far greater than an NFC North title.